e-mail me at billdeg@umich.edu


on headwounds and pasta fasool

I capped off a travel-packed May and June with a trip to Cleveland's Little Italy. My parents, my sister and her kids, and I hit the road for the great Mama Santo's, one of the two or three coolest restaurants I've ever experienced. Pizza? It's great there. Pasta? Some of the best you'll eat. Atmosphere? Right on Mayfield Road, which is lined with bakeries, gelato bars, shops with balconied upstairs apartments where old Italian couples always seem to be sitting. I almost did my Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve just so I could live in one of those apartments and walk to school.

So on this recent trip we're cruising Mayfield's side streets looking for a place to park. Out of a little garage walks a little old man named Frank, wearing the requisite undershirt, looking disoriented, and covered with blood. I mean covered. My sister and I hopped out of the car. Anna got Frank to sit down on his stoop and I called 9-1-1. He had a massive headwound. I'm told headwounds sometimes look worse than they are due to the amount of blood that's usually involoved. I guess Frank was in that category. The white undershirt--saturated by this point--certainly contributed to this visual intensity of the whole scene.

Anna did a good job of keeping Frank still and calmly got some pertinent info. E.G., he had fallen and hit his head. Useful to know there's not an ax murderer hanging out in the nearby garage. I handled the ridiculous barrage of questions from the emergency operator. From what height did he fall? Are you kidding me? Do you have a different ambulance that you dispatch for people who fall from the third rung of a stepladder vs. the second rung? Just send the ambulance!

My dad, in what had to have been his most resourcesful moment EVER, suddenly walked up to Frank's stoop WITH A NURSE. Yeah, we were close to University Hospital, but, still, pretty miraculous that a nurse happened to be walking by and my dad happened to find her. She cleaned his wound with gauze packets that I unwrapped for her ("your hands are really shaking, honey," I remember her saying to me), which helped a lot, except for the fact that when she sopped up enough blood, you could see the guy's skull. No joke. Frank's elderly wife came outside and kind of freaked out. Anna chilled her out and got her to bring a clean shirt, which helped a lot and made the scene seem less grisly. The nurse assured us that Frank was fine. Sigh. Thank God.

The ambulance finally showed up and by then my mom had found a parking space so we walked to Mama Santo's. Hey, crisis situation or not, you gotta eat, right? Leave it to nieces and nephews to find the humor in moving from medical-emergency-involving-copious-amounts-of-blood to a lunch-involving-copious-amounts-of-red-sauce. What's the coolest thing about Mama's? The menu has a whole pasta fasool section. That's "pasta e fagioli" if you're fancy pants. My dialect-reared grandparents always called it "pasta fasool." You can get your pasta fasool with white beans, kidney beans, or a host of other legumes. I got mine with peas. Delicious, especially with lots of black pepper. They use a thin sauce for their pasta fasool so it's like a cross between a soup dish and a pasta dish. You can opt for ditalini, but the best pasta choice is the broken up spaghetti pieces. My dad says both his grandmas made it that way, with the spags broken into four or five small lengths.

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